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Midcentury modern ranch by Cliff May asks $920K in Long Beach

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The house opens to a backyard with patios and a fire pit.

The 1950s home has vaulted ceilings and walls of glass

This lovely Long Beach home sits in the Rancho Estates neighborhood on the eastern side of the city, a community planned out in the 1950s by prolific modern designer Cliff May.

With 1,950 square feet of living space, the four-bedroom home is also one of the larger residences that May designed in the area. Inside, it’s got vaulted ceilings with exposed beams and skylights, clerestory windows, walls of glass, and easy indoor-outdoor access—a hallmark of May’s design style.

The house was built in 1954 and has been updated with contemporary appliances, remodeled bathrooms, and new cabinetry. Original doors and a brick fireplace in the living room remain.

Sitting on a 5,810-square-foot lot, the house has an attached two-car garage and opens to a neatly manicured backyard with a grassy patch of lawn, a fire pit, and multiple patios. Alongside the home is a shady sitting area and a hot tub.

Asking price is $920,000.

Living room
Dining area
Bedroom
Hot tub
Front of the house

Dramatic revamp of Redondo Beach waterfront put on hold

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The city has to fix the project’s environmental impact report, a judge says

Redondo Beach’s plans to dramatically remake its waterfront are on hold.

A court ruling says a key document in the planning process must be altered and re-distributed to the public before the project can get underway.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant has ordered a number of revisions to the project’s final environmental impact report in response to a lawsuit filed by Building a Better Redondo, which sued the city of Redondo Beach to stop the project.

Among the tweaks that Chalfant ordered are that the city and developer assess the “visual impact” of a proposed hotel on views from Czuleger Park and the “human health impacts” of demolishing Seaside Lagoon to make way for a new beach.

The lagoon is swimming area with a sand-bottom that’s open to the public. It draws ocean water from beyond the breakwater via an intake pipe at a nearby power plant. The water is used to cool the plant turbines, and it’s chlorinated before it’s pumped into the lagoon, court records show.

“The project will demolish the existing swimming facility and the rock wall protecting the facility from Harbor waters, stop the chlorination of the swimming-related waters for the facility, and build a new beach using Harbor waters,” Chalfant wrote in his ruling. “The public health impacts of doing so must be evaluated.”

The plan to transform the waterfront, put forth by the El Segundo-based company CenterCal, has been divisive since a solid vision for the site emerged in 2015. Last year, a city ballot measure aimed squarely at halting the waterfront project passed with 57 percent support from Redondo Beach residents.

The measure put the plan in jeopardy, but didn’t entirely tank its chances of getting built. Whether the measure takes effect appears to be in the hands of the California Coastal Commission.

The redevelopment would produce an approximately 36-acre waterfront complex with over 500,000 square feet of new retail space, including a boutique hotel, restaurants, creative office space, a “specialty cinema,” and a market. The plan would also upgrade public space in the area, including the Marvin Braude Bike Path.

To make way for those new storefronts, nearly all existing properties in the Seaside Lagoon area and a large parking structure near the pier would be demolished. The Kincaid’s restaurant and a handful of public restrooms would be all that remains.

The final environmental impact report for the project was compiled over an almost three-year period and was released in July 2016.

Battle over Koreatown shelter wages on, with supporters stepping up

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Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilmember Herb Wesson announcing the Koreatown shelter.

Opponents say city officials need to do more outreach

Los Angeles officials are fighting back against opponents of a planned homeless shelter in Koreatown.

Hundreds of homeless advocates and Koreatown community members rallied Friday at City Hall to show support for the emergency shelter planned in the neighborhood.

It’s the latest event in a controversy that’s been been brewing for more than two weeks after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti last month announced that at least 15 temporary shelters are set to rise around the city.

The shelters will give homeless residents a place to stay and to get connected with social services while permanent homeless housing is constructed under a $1.2 billion spending plan that Los Angeles voters approved in 2016.

Thanks to a new state law, those shelters can be constructed quickly, with little community input, as long as they rise on land owned by the city. The law was meant to allow cities like Los Angeles to respond to skyrocketing levels of homelessness.

But residents and business owners who oppose the project in Koreatown say more public outreach should have been done.

What happens with the Koreatown project could shape the implementation of the emergency shelter plan, which city officials are calling A Bridge Home.

Some opposition is already emerging toward a proposed shelter site along Ventura Boulevard in Studio City.

In Koreatown, opponents have called for a town hall-style meeting about the shelter and are planning a third rally against the project Saturday at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Vermont Avenue, where the project is planned.

A petition opposing the shelter has garnered over 9,000 signatures; but the project has supporters as well. A counter-petition launched last week had drawn close to 600 signatures at the time of this writing.

Homeless advocates at Friday’s rally argued that the planned shelter would give homeless residents in the area a needed alternative to sleeping on streets and sidewalks. According to data provided by Councilmember Herb Wesson’s office, Koreatown is home to at least 400 homeless residents now living without shelter.

In a video released by Wesson last week, the councilmember explains that the neighborhood has the largest concentration of homeless residents in his council district. But unoccupied plots of city-owned land where a shelter could be constructed are scarce.

That’s why a parking lot just off the busy Wilshire corridor was selected as the project site, despite its proximity to schools and businesses—a chief concern of project opponents.

The councilmember and mayor met with community members last week to resolve concerns about security at the shelter and its hours of operation (it would be open around the clock). But attorney Grace Yoo, who ran against Wesson in 2015, tells Curbed that the response of local officials has been lacking.

“It’s not that we oppose a shelter in Koreatown,” says Yoo. “It’s that people are being blindsided. This is something we can be proud of, but if you try to push it down into a community without buy-in and support, people are going to be upset.”

Yoo says she has doubts about the city’s ability to provide 24-hour security at the shelters, and that she’d like to see more data about the area’s homeless population.

In an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times, Korean American Coalition director Joon Bang argues that a shelter is needed in the neighborhood, but that city officials need to do a better job of community outreach and education in the future.

A public hearing on the Koreatown project is scheduled for Tuesday, May 22, at 8:30 a.m. at city hall.

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1908 Hollywood Craftsman looks good at every angle for $1.9M

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A sweet mix of vintage and contemporary

This lovely 1908 Craftsman at the foot of the Hollywood Hills is a scenic one-mile walk from Griffith Park and the Bronson Caves. Located in the historic Hollywood Grove neighborhood, the property also has a view of the Hollywood Sign from the master bedroom’s balcony.

The four-bedroom holds wood floors, a lovely staircase, a fantastic porch, and a contemporary kitchen and breakfast area. The kitchen connects to the rear yard via 9-foot-tall accordion-style glass doors. Though there are clearly modern updates to the house, the house retains an old-timey feel.

The yard is a serene space with stylish landscaping, a saltwater pool and spa, an outdoor shower, and a covered patio.

A one-time Curbed House Calls subject, this house is owned by the co-proprietor of the Atwater Village store Potted.

It’s listed for $1.995 million.

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Marc Maron’s Highland Park home fetches $920K, garage included

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The comedian started his successful WTF podcast in the home’s garage.

That’s nearly $200K above the asking price

Comedian and podcaster Marc Maron has officially parted ways with his Highland Park home—and earned quite a profit on the transaction, as Eastsider reports.

Property records show that Maron purchased the low-key two-bedroom residence in 2003 for just over $375,000. He started recording the popular WTF podcast in the detached garage behind the house in 2009.

Maron, who has now, as the New York Times reports, moved on to a larger Craftsman-style home nearby, listed the property in March. Last week it sold for $920,000—nearly three times its last purchase price and an astonishing $171,000 above the $749,000 that it was listed for.

The home, built in 1927, is quite charming, with hardwood floors, coved ceilings, and an elegant living room fireplace. The airy kitchen has tile floors and flows directly into a formal dining room.

Sitting on a sizable 8,114-square-foot lot, the house has just 932 square feet of living space, but leads out to a large wooden deck, as well as a garden and patio space.

The house might also be historic landmark material someday, having hosted a legion of notable podcast guests, including former president Barack Obama.

maron house
maron house

Report: LA needs nearly 600,000 new units of affordable housing

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Renters earning less than half of LA County’s median income spend 71 percent of their earnings on rent.

Nearly 600,000 units, according to a new report

Los Angeles County has an extreme shortfall of affordable housing, according to a new report from the California Housing Partnership and the Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing, and 568,255 new units are needed to satisfy the demand of lower-income renters.

Based on Census data, the report indicates that more than 800,000 renter households would qualify for affordable housing, were it available. But fewer than 300,000 units are available across the entire county at rents that would be affordable to these residents.

That means most lower-income renters are stretched thin by monthly payments that take up a huge portion of their budgets. Households earning less than half the median income, spend more than 70 percent of their income on rent, leaving little money left over for essential needs like food and healthcare.

The association’s director, Alan Greenlee, tells Curbed that statistics like this challenge the idea that Los Angeles is a place where “you can make a living and afford your house and send your kids to school.”

He argues that high rents don’t just make it hard for lower earners to make ends meet; they also hamper the region’s overall economy.

“When you’re spending so much of your income on rent, that money’s going to landlords instead of grocery stores,” says Greenlee.

Compounding the problem in the short-term is a steep decline in the number of affordable units produced using low-income housing tax credits in 2017.

Greenlee says the 54 percent dip in development of these units between 2016 and 2017 is probably due to uncertainty on the part of investors about how federal tax reform would affect the value of those tax credits—relied on by developers for many affordable projects.

Because the value of low-income housing tax credits has increased in recent months, affordable housing production might pick back up again. But that won’t be enough on its own to close the gap between needed and existing housing.

The report offers several policy recommendations for addressing this issue, including increased spending at the state level and passage of a $4 billion bond measure for affordable housing that California voters will decide on this fall.

Its authors also recommend that state lawmakers find a way to return financing systems to cities that could pay for projects similar to those taken on by the now-shuttered community redevelopment agencies.

On a more local level, county and city officials could offer new renter subsidies, eviction protections, and a streamlined development process for affordable housing (similar to the system now in place for permanent supportive complexes built for homeless residents).

Greenlee says that higher earning residents should get behind policies that lead to more affordable housing production.

“Intellectually, I think that people understand that it costs a lot to live here,” he says. “But there still continue to be misunderstandings about people who happen to be poor—there’s a perception that it’s somehow those people’s fault.”

He speculates that those feelings sometimes manifest themselves in opposition to new development, which can exacerbate the area’s existing housing shortage.

“There’s a lot of education and growth that needs to happen in our community,” Greenlee says. “But we gotta build.”

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Secluded hillside hideaway in Silver Lake seeks $1.44M

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Like a cabin in the sky!

There’s little risk of being bothered by door-to-door salesmen at this Silver Lake residence. Built in 1940, the property’s detached garage and driveway are the only parts visible from the street, with its main structure tucked into the hillside below at the end of a long-ish staircase.

While the two-bedroom, two-bath post and beam measures in at a compact 1,086 square feet, its open plan, lofty ceilings, and sliding glass walls make it feel airy and expansive. Other interior features include stone floors, a floating fireplace, marble countertops, original tile in one of the baths, and central A/C.

Outside, there’s a wrap-around deck with built-in benches, a dining patio, a gazebo, meandering pathways, and flowers and trees galore.

On a .28-acre lot that abuts one of the historic hillside staircases, the property is listed with an asking price of $1.439 million.

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Here are 5 LA apartments renting for $3,200

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From Santa Monica to Silver Lake

Welcome to Curbed Comparisons, where we explore what you can rent or buy for a certain dollar amount in various LA ’hoods. We’ve found five rentals within $100 of today’s price, $3,200. Vote for your favorite below.


 Via Zillow

We’ll kick things off with a crisply remodeled duplex in hip Silver Lake. The light-filled unit measures 700 square feet and holds one bathroom and two bedrooms (a master and a second bedroom that the listing acknowledges is “small”), plus a loft accessed by a built-in ladder. It’s renting for $3,150.

 Via Blackstone Realty and Management

You can get a lot more space in centrally-located Mid-City. That’s where you’ll find this handsome old Craftsman home that holds two bedrooms and one and a half baths in 1,674 square feet. There’s a backyard and a back house with a full bathroom, but space isn’t the only perk. The house sports it original hardwood floors, built-ins, and moldings. It’s renting for $3,195.

 Via Zillow

In breezy Santa Monica, this “cottage style unit” is located just about a mile from the beach. It holds two bedrooms, one bathroom, and a kitchen that “opens up to a private vegetable garden and patio area with outdoor string lights.” Rent here is $3,250.

 Via onerent

If you love old spaces, here’s another contender, a charming unit in a Spanish-style building in idyllic Beachwood Canyon. The listing is sparse, but, as the photos show, the two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment is not. It’s embellished with lots of colorful tilework, from the fireplace to the shower. The 1,000-square-foot unit is renting for $3,200.

 Via Zillow

For a big city vibe, head to Downtown LA. A brick-clad unit with soaring ceilings and big windows is available in the Pan American Lofts at the corner of Broadway and Third Street, steps from Grand Central Market, MOCA, and Angels Flight. This unit measures 910 square feet and features a “fabulous spiral staircase leading to a second level sleeping loft and finally a rooftop terrace.” It’s renting for $3,195.

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This building would be a ‘milestone in restoring and preserving’ the Arts District

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The seven-story building with 122 live-work lofts planned for 1800 East Seventh Street.

“It’s a milestone in restoring and preserving the community of artists”

Plans for 122 new live-work lofts on the southern edge of the Arts District have breezed through the Los Angeles Planning Commission, buoyed by the support of local artists.

The commission voted unanimously Thursday to endorse the mixed-use project, which will set aside 14 units for tenants with very low incomes. A representative for the building’s developer told the commission that those units will have a “leasing preference” for artists.

“This is an important project, because it’s a milestone in restoring and preserving the community of artists that have given so much to the culture of the city and the country,” said Jonathan Jerald, a member of Los Angeles Downtown Arts District Space.

Jerald was one of more than a dozen singers, writers, and visual artists who testified Thursday in support of the project at 1800 East Seventh Street, with many saying rents in the neighborhood have skyrocketed to the point that artists can no longer afford to live there.

The building, designed by HansonLA, would feature an “art wall” with colored glass on the facade facing Decatur Street.

“It’s important that if Los Angeles wants to be the center of the arts community, the city with developers, must provide live-work spaces to artists at prices that artists can afford,” said Miles Hamada, a silkscreen artist. “What is an Arts District without artists?”

The lofts will be part of a new seven-story building, designed by HansonLA, with ground-floor restaurants and shops.

“The design of the building invokes the industrial character of the neighborhood, with masonry walls and large, factory-style windows,” said city planner Michael Sin.

It was designed almost entirely for artists. The units, averaging 781 square feet, will each hold at least 150 square feet for workspace, with additional arts production space on each floor. Some of the lofts will open to a shared courtyard and pool, plans show.

“The architecture is great, contextual, and that’s why you’re not getting a lot of people coming out against it,” said commissioner Renee Dake Wilson. “It’s fitting with the place.”

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Explore LA on two wheels with these 4 bike rides

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The bike path along Ballona Creek.

From the beach to the mountains

With spring upon us, being outside is pleasant again. This is just the time to pump up your tires and expand your repertoire of bike rides. We enlisted local bike experts who shared some of their favorite LA-area rides with us.

The routes are a mix of different objectives and surroundings, but whether it’s an educational public art ride, an intense but rewarding mountain ride, or a traffic-bypassing ride to a popular LA destination, all the rides are an excellent way to see the city from a new perspective.

P.S. If you’re looking for more ways to get outdoors in Los Angeles, here’s our seasonal pocket guide, our favorite routes to the Hollywood Sign, and a round-up of eight trails with spectacular endings.

1. If you’re looking to learn about LA as you ride

“The Eastside Mural Ride is still fairly new, but what makes this group ride stand out for me is that it combines history, community, murals, and bikes. Multicultural Communities for Mobility has put on the ride annually for the last three years with the same intention: to learn more about the history of murals in these Eastside communities, the history they reflect, the stories behind them, and the artists who painted them.

The rides have visited Boyle Heights, East LA, and City Terrace so far. Throughout the tour, the ride organizers also make it clear that we support the fights against displacement and art-washing many of these communities are facing. When we can, we give away bicycle helmets and lights while reinforcing safety and equitable for bicycles/pedestrians infrastructure that benefits existing community members.” —Erick Huerta, Multicultural Communities for Mobility

2. If you’re looking to escape the city and are willing to break a sweat to do it

 Zach Rynew/CiclaValley

“Biking up Highway 39 to Crystal Lake is one of the best rides that will make you forget city life even though you’re less than an hour from it. For first timers, buy a $5 Daily Adventure Pass in Azusa and drive to the East Fork/Cogswell Dam area to start your 14-mile journey.

This ride is for intermediate and advanced cyclists as the heavy climbing off the bat sets the tone for the duration. If you’re not panting too hard, you’ll instantly notice the quietness and feeling of isolation as you can track oncoming traffic from miles away.

At mile five, the San Gabriel Mountains open up to you like the Eastern Sierras, displaying a vast yet secluded panorama with voluminous accents of green and red no matter the time of year.

At the end of the climb, stop into the Crystal Lake Café and grab a sandwich and refreshments before making your way back down. You’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something special.” —Zach Rynew, CiclaValley

3. If you want to get to the beach but you don’t want to bike the whole way

A post shared by Paul Dawson (@betterfasterpt) on Feb 12, 2018 at 12:13pm PST

“Especially for those who don’t live on the Westside, getting to the beach can seem like a real schlep, but it doesn’t have to be if you’ve got a bike. The Ballona Creek Bike Path takes cyclists from the Culver City area straight to the ocean without the fuss of navigating potholed city streets or stopping at red lights.

Even better, the path starts from Syd Kronenthal Park, about a block away from the Expo Line’s La Cienega/Jefferson station, which makes it easy to take the train in for part of the ride.

The approximately 7-mile-long ride cruises along a mostly flat, paved route, making it a great ride for people traveling with beginning riders or kids. The route follows a concrete flood channel for much of the way, but eventually hits wetlands that attract a variety of birds, local and migratory.

The well-traveled path goes all the way to Playa del Rey, linking up to the beachy Marvin Braude Bike Trail, for those looking to bike a little more.” —Bianca Barragan, carfree Curbed LA associate editor

4. If you’re looking to merge your packed social calendar and biking

#bike #parking #dodgerstadium #bikedupthehill #bikela

A post shared by joni (@ayogist) on May 17, 2015 at 1:01pm PDT

“Getting to games at Dodger Stadium without a car has gotten better in recent years for someone living in the Los Angeles metro area.

I’ve tried different ways to get to games with friends and family: walking from Chinatown, taking the Dodger Stadium Express from Union Station, or biking from Downtown or Hollywood. While biking isn’t the easiest option, it’s a fun challenge with a group of friends who are up to the task of riding up Vin Scully Avenue from Sunset and Cesar Chavez.

While there are always opportunities to improve this experience for those who don’t drive, Dodger Stadium has added more spots designated for bicycle parking and better routes set up for people who walk and bike up to the stadium. In the meantime, doing this in groups can make having to face the post-game sea of cars less intimidating.” —Maria Sipin, Multicultural Communities for Mobility

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Make less than $54,250? You may qualify for low-income housing

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Income limits for affordable housing are calculated each year by HUD.

Income limits for LA County have been updated

If you make less than $54,250 per year in Los Angeles County, you may qualify for low-income housing.

According to estimates released last month by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the median family income in LA County is now $69,300. That’s up a bit from last year, when the typical family brought in $64,300.

The new estimate means that affordable housing income limits in LA County have shifted as well, since they are calculated as a percentage of the median income.

Income limits in Los Angeles are especially important as new affordable housing incentives kick in and elected officials at the local and state levels consider new ways to spur development of affordable housing.

These homes are offered at low rates to renters who might otherwise be unable to find housing at a price they can afford. Whether they are able to move in depends on their income and family size.

For instance, if a unit in a housing complex is set aside for low-income renters, a single person would have to make under $54,250 in order to live there. A family of eight, on the other hand, could earn up to $102,300.

But that’s not the only income group classified by HUD. The agency also employs separate groupings for very low- and extremely low-income residents. Whether you fall into one of those categories depends quite a bit on where you live.

For instance, in Orange County, the median income is now $92,700, and a single person earning under $38,300 would fall into the very low-income group. In Riverside and San Bernardino counties (grouped together in HUD’s calculations), the median income is $65,800, and a single person making the same amount would not fall into the very low- or even the low-income group.

Income requirements LA CountyU.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

In Los Angeles County, the very low-income category applies to those earning between $33,950 (for an individual) and $64,000 (for a family of eight). Extremely-low income describes those making between $20,350 (individual) and $42,380 (family of eight).

These distinctions matter, since developers often plan affordable units based on tax breaks and incentives that become more or less generous depending on which income group they are designed for.

Development incentives created through Measure JJJ allow developers of projects near transit stops to build taller than would be otherwise allowed, and to include less parking, as long as a certain percentage of units in the building are affordable. The percentage goes up and down depending on the income level of future residents. The lower the income level, the fewer units need to be set aside to make the project eligible for incentives.

A recent state analysis found that Los Angeles isn’t building nearly enough housing for any of these income groups, but more funding for affordable development projects may be on the way, thanks to new fees charged to developers that can then be used to finance construction of housing for residents with lower incomes.

It takes a salary of over $110K to afford a typical home in LA

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The median price of a home in Los Angeles County was $545,540 in the first three months of 2018.

72 percent of LA residents can’t afford that

In Los Angeles County, where home prices have now eclipsed the inflated levels reached just prior to the Recession, most residents don’t earn enough to afford a typical home, according to a new report from the California Association of Realtors.

The analysis finds that the median price of a home in LA County was $545,540 in the first three months of 2018. That calculation may be on the conservative side; a recent report from real estate tracker CoreLogic found the median price to be $585,000.

Even given the smaller number, though, it would take an income of $112,930 to comfortably afford the monthly payments of $2,820 that come with a median-priced home. The association finds that only 28 percent of residents earn that much, meaning that homeownership simply isn’t an option for many Angelenos.

In this case, the calculation assumes that buyers are able to put no more than 30 percent of their income toward housing—a common standard for affordability. Some eager home shoppers may be willing to pay more than that, but, of course, the more income monthly payments are likely to eat up, the less likely those buyers will be to obtain a loan.

The affordability estimate also assumes that those in the market for a home can afford to make a 20 percent down payment when purchasing one. Given a median price of $545,540, that’s nearly $110,000 of cash up front.

Since many buyers don’t have that kind of money lying around, they’ll need to make a smaller down payment. That can in turn raise monthly costs—partly because the amount owed on the loan is higher and partly because those buyers will have to pay for private mortgage insurance.

Because of that, the number of LA residents able to comfortably afford a median-priced home may be even less than the report suggests. But it’s not all bad news. The percentage of homeowners able to make those monthly payments has actually risen a bit since the final months of 2017, when median homes were affordable to just a quarter of Angelenos.

Los Angeles is also markedly more affordable than other parts of California, like San Francisco, where only 15 percent of residents earn enough to buy a median-priced ($1.61 million) home. Statewide, typical homes are affordable to 31 percent of residents.

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Anti-density campaign leader: ‘We think our shaming made a difference’

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The growing Hollywood skyline in the foreground, with DTLA skyscrapers in the background.

She says she isn’t done making city officials “feel uncomfortable”

A little over a year ago, Los Angeles voters rejected a sweeping ballot measure that would have put a freeze on many of the city’s largest developments.

Critics of the anti-density initiative, called Measure S, argued that it would stifle new development needed to alleviate a citywide housing shortage, and the measure garnered only a little over half of the yes votes needed for it to pass.

Yet the fiery campaign launched by its supporters brought many of the most outdated elements of the city’s planning policies into the spotlight and helped accelerate the process by which the city updates community plans that guide development in specific neighborhoods.

The architect of that campaign was Jill Stewart, executive director of the Coalition to Preserve LA and former managing editor at LA Weekly. After the defeat of Measure S, the coalition continues to push for changes to LA’s planning system. Stewart gave us an hour to talk about what she’d like to change about the way development happens in Los Angeles. Here are some excerpts from the conversation.


What has the Coalition to Preserve LA been up to since the end of the Measure S Campaign?

Well, that was a campaign, and this is a nonprofit organization. We have basically four missions: government transparency, environmental stewardship, equitable housing, and what we call people-oriented planning.

People-oriented planning—what does that mean?

It has to do with making sure you hear from community members, particularly on the issue of equity in Los Angeles—hearing from people who have fewer voices and lesser voices, because they don’t have fancy attorneys. It has to do with finding out what communities want and need when you create your planning. It’s not commonly done by current urban planning, but we think it’s the way to go.

One result of the Measure S campaign was that the city agreed to update its community plans every six years. Has that been an adequate response?

Let’s go in a slightly different direction. Former planning director Gail Goldberg launched a heroic effort to update the community plans… and they got a couple community plans done. And then they did Hollywood. And the City Council and the city planning department lied about the growth rates. They wanted to put in skyscrapers, so they had an agenda in Hollywood that had nothing to do with what Hollywood was actually turning into.

Hollywood was turning into this cool historic zones area that needed cleanup. And at some point it was decided that skyscrapers should go there. A lot of people… think that’s a stupid idea, but it’s halfway there at this point. And of course you can’t move in and out of Hollywood now. The Red Line makes no difference—it’s losing traffic, just like all of Metro. Metro is backfiring.

I think one of the big problems in LA and other cities is that planners aren’t willing to feel uncomfortable, and neither are elected officials. They need to see that they’re not the lords of the manor. They have to deal with everyday people.

Is making them feel uncomfortable something you try to do?

We do. We think they wield closed-door power, which is inappropriate, in deciding what’s going to happen to thousands of people’s lives. It’s disgusting, as a matter of fact. And we think they need to accept that they are not perfection itself and start listening to what people are saying.

Train with construction in the backgroundHayk_Shalunts | Shutterstock
Much of LA’s new development is centered around transit.

You mentioned that Metro is backfiring. Do you think it was a mistake to invest in the kind of infrastructure that Metro has built?

Metro is a huge disaster. Just unbelievable—billions and billions spent on routes people don’t want to take, and on massive amounts of luxury housing driving out the working class people who would be using the trains. And the complete lack of interest on what the bus system is capable of doing.

I think what we have here is a certain amount of penis envy of big cities in the east where really expensive fixed rail is the way to go. Obviously the unions prefer it because it’s union jobs. The bus system is not as cool. It’s for poor people, right? That’s the view.

We have a starved bus system that goes everywhere. And you’ve got a few hundred stops for rail. So rail can never ever match the bus system, and yet rail gets all the expenses; rail gets the kudos; and rail is failing in Los Angeles.

I think there’s a growing acknowledgement, behind closed doors anyway, that Metro is going horribly wrong. I think that fixed rail isn’t working. It’s being rejected wholesale by the middle class and certainly by the people that live in luxury housing around the stations. And at some point, Metro will be forced into rethinking how they’ve spent their money.

It seems like there’s a disconnect between the idea that people are rejecting the rail, but at the same time just recently passed ballot measures to spend more money building it.

How closely do you think voters follow how the money’s being spent, and how many voters do you think know that Metro is experiencing a ridership collapse? Do you think the average voter knows that?

We vote for things that we think are good, and we have pride in the city, and we want the city to work better. They spent a huge amount of money promoting [measures R and M], and they got the entire political structure behind them. It sounded good, and it looked good.

So you’re saying this is a question of people not realizing what they’re voting for?

This is an issue of huge money spent to sell a dream. There’s very little media left to explain what’s actually going on. So it’s not the voters. You can’t blame it on voters. It’s a leadership issue. They’re not trying to be innovative. They’re stuck in the ’80s, and they’re fine having a failure.

What does a more contemporary approach to planning and infrastructure look like?

I think it’s easy to get caught up in, well, we’re having the Olympics, therefore we’re a city of the future. That’s not going to do much. That’s not going to help. That’s going to be a distraction. So you have these side issues that I think people lock onto, especially in city hall, to illustrate that they’re being innovative and forward-thinking.

But really to be innovative and forward-thinking, they would have to sit down and rethink what they do. We know that they’re not planning at all for the movement of people into their homes to do their jobs. We know there’s no discussion. That’s really incredible.

Speaking of work, you’re a veteran journalist. What made you move into political advocacy?

I guess one day I decided I’d overseen my last assignment for a top 10 list. And I thought journalism wasn’t going in a positive, healthy direction in Los Angeles, or any other city. And it wasn’t the fantastic industry I loved so much. It was time to do something that was as meaningful as what I used to do when I was an investigative reporter, and try to open up the doors of city hall, so to speak.

Given the Coalition to Preserve LA’s focus on affordable housing, I was surprised to see you opposed the city’s Permanent Supportive Housing Ordinance to speed up delivery of homeless housing. What are your concerns with the measure?

We think they need to be much more innovative with the money. We think they need to accept the bad optics of, I’m not going to say tent cities, but giant tents like San Diego is adopting, where they can house several hundred people.

We understand—I get it—that the mayor does not want ugly optics for a city that’s heading toward the Olympics. He doesn’t want a lot of giant tents. He doesn’t want a lot of bad news before the Olympics. But this is our Katrina, and we have to act like it’s Katrina and see that the health aspects of keeping people on the streets for months and months on end—all these new homeless we have who aren’t used to being on the streets. The cost in the long run is going to be far worse than anything they are discussing right now.

So we’re saying: innovation. Shelters? A lot more shelters. We pressured and pressured and pressured. We put out a regular press release called the Daily Outrage in which we pressured the mayor and the city to stop focusing on this long-term, slow buildout of units that cost $430,000 to build.

So do you support the mayor’s plan to build more shelters? For instance, the one in Koreatown that they just announced?

We have been begging him to jump into shelters for months, and we couldn’t get him to listen all this time. So we think our press releases made a difference. We think our shaming made a difference. We hope it did. We hope they’re finally listening… you can’t just keep doing this one thing again and again. It’s not working.

Specific locations, I have no comment on that. It’s up to the community and the local political leaders to work it out. But they have to be put some place.

We think empty city property—existing buildings—should be used. We think Parker Center is the No. 1 best property they could possibly turn into homeless housing. We hired an architect who said that 730 could be housed there.

The retrofit would be very inexpensive. The city’s numbers are off the charts as to how much it would cost to retrofit—way, way off the charts. There’s a much cheaper way to do it, so we think they should look at the big empty city buildings and use them for homeless housing. We think they should stop being NIMBYs.

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Here’s what $640K buys around LA

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We’ve got five options from Pasadena to Santa Monica

Welcome to Curbed Comparisons, where we explore what you can rent or buy for a certain dollar amount in various LA ’hoods. We’ve found five homes and condos within $10,000 of today’s price: $640,000.

Front yard of bungalow
Living room with fireplace
Kitchen
Backyard with garageVia Norma Mardelli, Coldwell Banker

Here’s a cozy Pasadena bungalow positioned on a 5,407-square-foot lot north of Old Town. The house has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, with 1,191 square feet of floor space. Features include hardwood floors, French doors, and a brick fireplace in the living room. In the backyard is a covered patio and a two-car garage. Asking price is $638,000.

Living room
Dining room
Bedroom
Building exteriorVia Dan Nessel, Berkshire Hathaway

This Santa Monica condo has a single bedroom and a bathroom, with 656 square feet of living space. Situated in a 1970s-built complex just north of Wilshire Boulevard, the unit has wood floors, plenty of built-in shelving, and a gas fireplace in the living room. A small balcony has room for seating or a grill. Asking price is $639,000, with HOA dues of $223 per month.

Front of house
Living room
Kitchen
BackyardVia Joseph Devarenne, Meredith Wick, Sotheby’s

Right on the edge of Mount Washington is this small three-bedroom home with just under 1,000 square feet of floor space. The compact residence has plenty of charm, though, with large windows, built-in shelving, wood floors, and a fireplace. Built in 1922, the house sits on a 5,617-square-foot lot with a sizable backyard and lovely views of the surrounding hills. Asking price is $649,000.

Front yard
Living room and dining room
Bedroom with sliding door
BackyardVia  Glenda Martinez, Pinnacle Estate Properties

Looking for something a bit more spacious? This home in Winnetka has four bedrooms and two bathrooms spread across 1,479 square feet of floor space. Built in 1956, the house is freshly renovated with new flooring, appliances, and HVAC system. It sits on an 8,160-square-foot lot with a grassy backyard and plenty of room for a garden. Asking price is $639,000.

Condo building
Living room
Dining room
Swimming poolVia Sue Murphy, Danielle Glew, Keller Williams

This cavernous condo in Culver City has two bedrooms and two bathrooms, with 1,746 square feet of floor space. The open living room has a fireplace and wet bar, and opens to a private balcony. Both bedrooms have walk-in closets and the master is equipped with an en-suite bathroom. The building has a swimming pool and large patio area for residents. Asking price is $649,000, with HOA dues of $525 per month.

New mixed-user, renovations planned at Third Street Kmart/Whole Foods site

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The owners of the shopping center want 381 housing units and new retail

The owners of the Town & Country shopping center in Fairfax have filed plans with the city planning department to redevelop and renovate the site bounded by Third Street, Ogden Drive, Colgate Drive, and Fairfax Avenue—directly south of The Grove mall.

Their plans include adding a new mixed-use development with many as 381 residential units and roughly 80,000 square feet of retail space. To do this, they plan to demolish part of the complex and renovate about 66,000 square feet of the existing space.

The shopping center at Fairfax and West Third Street counts a Kmart, a Whole Foods, and a CVS among its tenants now.

The owners of the retail center are scheduled to deliver a preliminary presentation to the Mid City West Neighborhood Council tonight, showcasing some of their ideas for the property and soliciting feedback.

It will be interesting to see how a proposal for a development of this size will be received by neighbors. In 2012, the Ross Dress for Less site directly east of the Town & Country mall traded hands after the owner, Alan Casden of Casden Properties, tried unsuccessfully for several years to get approvals to build a 300-unit mixed-use development on the property.

New state bill could fund affordable housing near transit in California cities

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The bill would create transit zones around train stations and major bus stops.

It would also generate money for stations, pedestrian projects, and parks

A new bill working its way through the state legislature could provide California cities with more funding for affordable housing and public transit projects.

Senate Bill 961, drafted by state Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), has already cleared two legislative committees without a single no-vote. It would allow a portion of tax revenue from businesses and properties around rail stops and major bus lines to pay for affordable housing, parks, new stations, and streetscape improvements.

The measure wouldn’t raise taxes, but would allow cities and counties to use a portion of future tax revenue collected in designated transit zones for specific types of projects.

The bill ensures, for instance, that 40 percent of the money be spent on low-income housing. Of that, half would be set aside for developments geared toward homeless residents.

In Los Angeles, the bill could have a big impact due to the city’s growing rail network and severe shortage of affordable housing.

In 2016, voters approved ballot measures HHH and JJJ, creating new funding sources and incentives for affordable developments, but much bringing down the cost of housing for many residents won’t be easy. A recent analysis from the California Housing Partnership Corporation found that the LA area is short more than 500,000 units of affordable housing.

Denny Zane, director of Move LA, which helped to write the bill, tells Curbed it would give cities like Los Angeles new ways to fund these projects.

“If you’re a city or a county and you’re eager to see affordable housing built near transit, this is a tool for that,” Zane says.

The remaining 60 percent of available tax revenue in transit zones could also be spent on housing, but cities would have the option to put it toward a menu of transit-related projects as well. Those include construction of new stations (including those for water transit), pedestrian improvements, bike infrastructure, parks near transit stops, and even offsite parking garages for new developments.

The transit-oriented zones created by the bill—officially called Neighborhood Infill Finance and Transit Improvement districts—would be similar to those proposed in Senate Bill 827, which would have overridden local zoning rules in areas well-served by trains and buses (the bill died in committee after pushback from neighborhood groups and city officials).

But SB 931 does not require cities to allow certain projects or slash restrictions for new development projects. Instead, cities and counties would be able to decide how and when to begin using new tax revenue in these areas, which would then be used to fund bonds for new development.

It also offers a way for communities to tap into tax revenue without obtaining voter approval—a necessary step in California, since the 1978 passage of Proposition 13. That’s because the money collected in transit zones wouldn’t require a percentage increase in sales or property tax. Instead, as revenue from these sources rises (due to inflation, annual increases, or the arrival of new businesses), local governments would be able to access some of the extra money.

It’s a complex arrangement, but it’s similar to the system used to finance California’s Community Redevelopment Agencies, until they were dissolved in 2012.

Zane explains that the bill would return to local officials many of the tools that the redevelopment agencies provided, and lessen the need to fund affordable housing through complicated ballot initiatives.

“The need for affordable housing is so great,” says Zane, “the need to do it near transit is so great … cities should be relieved of the need for voter approval.”

 
 
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